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“Watch” (Matthew 25:1-13)

1[Jesus said:] “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. (Matthew 25:1-13)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Lutheran Commentator Kretzmann offers an instructive summary of key points from the Gospel reading before us today, that of the 10 virgins who wait for the Bridegroom.  In his Popular Commentary, Kretzmann writes,

“This parable is connected very closely with the preceding admonitions of the Lord, urging watchfulness and faithfulness, faith and love. The nearer the time of His departure, the more earnestly He strove to impress upon His disciples the need of the Christian virtues which are necessary for a living, active Christianity.”

Continuing, Kretzmann then quotes Luther,

“‘Therefore this parable, to summarize, does not indicate anything else than that we should watch and not be too secure, since we do not know when the day of the Lord is coming…All of it is spoken against our carelessness, the accusation being that we are far too secure, and always think; There is no danger, the last day is not coming for a long time. Against this Christ and the apostles cry out, bidding us take heed for that day, watch, and be in lasting fear, lest it find us unprepared. Therefore those that watch will receive the Lord with His grace, those that are secure will find Him a merciless Judge.’”

Take heed, and remember the Words of our Lord on the night of His betrayal, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41 NKJ).

It is not those who say that they’re Christian and are not that receive the Lord with His grace.  Rather, it is those who continue waiting on the Lord, finding their security in Jesus alone and sure of His mercy and favor, in the present, and until He comes again in all of His glory; these are they who properly watch, having “no confidence” whatsoever, “in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3).

They who “wait on the Lord,” (Isaiah 40:31), these shall renew their strength, because it is the Lord Himself who strengthens them.

And how does the Lord do this? By the very means that He provides for the certainty of your salvation, that He “strengthen and preserve you steadfast in the truth faith to life everlasting”.

Therefore, believe the Word of the Lord, to you, of sins forgiven, of peace with God, of His favor.  He washed you of your sin by water and Word.  He gives you life through the means of Christ’s very body and blood.  He upholds you by means of the preaching.  He sustains you by His Word, and there, calls you.

“A chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1 Pet. 2:9-10 NKJ)

Those who deny the blessed gifts of our Lord show that they are not His, for those who are of the Lord “hear His voice” and “follow” Him (John 10:3).  They demonstrate the carelessness and the false security that Luther spoke about concerning the Gospel.  They really do not expect Jesus to return soon, nor do they heed the warning that the danger is here, now, the danger of impenitence and the Lord’s judgment upon sin, to be fully met upon them on the Day of Judgment.

Continuing with Kretzmann on Matthew 25, he writes what is true and according to the teaching of Holy Scripture.

“When the Kingdom is preached, these are the results: Some receive it with all their heart and are serious about it, believe the Word, make the most strenuous efforts to practice good works, let their lamps shine before the world; for they are well provided with lamps and oil, that is, with faith and love: these are represented by the wise virgins. Then there are some that also accept the Gospel, but are sleepy, are not serious about it, think they can succeed with their works, are secure, and believe it can be paid for with works; those are indicated in the foolish virgins. In Scripture those are called foolish that do not obey the Word of God, but follow their own mind, will not be taught, accept no opinion but their own. But it will happen to them at last as it here happened to the foolish virgins. These two kinds of people are in this Kingdom, namely, where the Gospel and the Word of God is preached and there should be exercise of faith: some follow, some do not follow…”

Jesus gives this warning to all who claim security in themselves and their own faith and not the faith of Christ, “Not everyone who says to Me,`Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21 NKJ).

The truth is, we don’t know the timing of our Lord’s return at the “End of days”.

What we do know is that we are to watch, and in the watching, we wait on the Lord, believing His Word.

Therefore watch! Watch what you hear and watch what you do.  Pay close attention to the “doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:16).  It is your salvation.

Be ready for the Lord’s coming, having the oil of faith, that you endure to the end.  Only those who are prepared will enter the wedding feast when the bridegroom is to come.  Then the door will be shut where none else can enter.

You are prepared, present and future tense, as you are and continue in the Lord’s doctrine and in the true faith, the faith that Jesus is God’s Son, that He died, and that He rose again, for you.

This is the Gospel, the Gospel which is front and center of all preaching and teaching that is Christian, the very life of the church.

Because of this Gospel, because of Christ, we hold God’s Word to be sacred, we gladly hear and learn it, and we receive the Lord’s Supper for the strengthening of our weak souls.

The central teaching of Christ’s church is that the sinner is justified, declared righteous, before God on account of Christ through faith.  If this teaching be weak or nonexistent in the church, the faith of the people will also be weak or nonexistent.

All teaching of the church affects this one saving doctrine, and vice versa.

It is necessary for the church always to be vigilant in her preaching and in her teaching according to the Lord’s Word and not to cower due to oppression by culture, or by persuasion by people.  Rather, she is to be immovable and steadfast to her Head at all times and in all places.

It is also necessary for hearers to hear, and to keep hearing, the good news of sins forgiven, for their eternal well-being, and to distinguish that doctrine which is faithful and true by means of the Holy Word of God, and to avoid that which is false and according to man and the devil.

If one says to you, ‘you are not a sinner in need of forgiveness,’ or another says, ‘your sin is not that bad’, you can boldly say, ‘Christ died to save me from my sin.  Since this is so, I know that I am a sinner, because Christ truly died.  And I still sin.  Therefore do I still need His forgiveness.  And graciously does He give it to me on account of Christ, because of Him and none other.’

Having this confession, you are ready for the Lord’s return, whenever that may be.

Eternal life is not dependent upon you, but upon Christ and Christ alone, even as St. Peter says, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Christ might seem to be slow in coming, but it is as St. Peter writes, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Though “scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4), Jesus will come in His own time, not ours.

The Lord’s timing is different from our own.   To Him, “one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8; Psalm 90:4).  To us, a day is a day, and so we believe that God created the world in six literal days as recorded in the creation account of Genesis.

God sets the time for our sake, not for His, that we abide by what He says and not be led astray by sinners who think they know better than God.

The Bible tells us that, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

And, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

When the time has come for the Lord to return, return He will, for all to see.  Though wars and rumors of wars, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes have been going on for years, and will continue to do so until the Lord’s arrival on the Last Day, these in no way indicate that the Lord misspoke His Words of readiness (Matthew 24:6-7).

The ‘not natural’ disasters of our day point ever to the final judgment.  A ‘Mother nature’ does not exist.  God the Father Almighty is maker of heaven and earth.  Not one sparrow falls to the ground without Him knowing of its falling (Matthew 10:29).

“Thy will be done, O Lord.”

His will is your salvation.

This “world is passing away, and the lust of it; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17).

The will of God is this, that you believe in Him whom He sent (John 6:29).

For this reason God has His Word declared to you in your hearing, proclaims to you your Savior Christ, and feeds you with the heavenly bread and drink of His body and blood.  By these, receiving and believing, what your Lord gives, as He gives, you are truly ready for Christ’s return.

Thus do you watch, standing in the faith of those who were before you, and waiting for your Savior to descend in the clouds, just as He has promised.

Look to no other.  “Be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:8 NKJ).

“Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!” (Ps. 27:14 NKJ). Amen.

 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep our eyes on Jesus, that we not be distracted, but be ready and prepared, always, believing your Word.  Amen.

 

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Readings for Holy Saturday, 2013C

ChristOntheCross-Rubens

Collect of the Day

O God, Creator of heaven and earth, grant that as the crucified body of Your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with Him the coming of the third day, and rise with Him to newness of life, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament: Daniel 6:1–24

1It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4Then the presidents and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

      6Then these presidents and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! 7All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction.

      10When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”

      14Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.”

      16Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. 18Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

      19Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” 23Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24And the king commanded, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives. And before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.

Epistle: 1 Peter 4:1–8

1Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. 3The time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. 4With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; 5but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

      7The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

Gospel: Matthew 27:57–66

57When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

      62Next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

As surely as the events of Good Friday remained fresh in the minds of the disciples on Saturday, so also with us.  With them, we wait.  But we do not wait without hope.  Though the disciples had misunderstood the Lord’s Word, His Word remains.  He will rise again on the third day (Matthew 17:23).  And He did!

Though we, too, like the disciples, have Jesus’ Word, so often do we doubt and disbelieve, for we go by experience and what we see and feel instead of what the Lord says.  But His Word remains true.  And by means of that Word, the Lord gives you confidence, that you not doubt, but firmly believe even against sight, emotion, and experience.

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